I was on Facebook recently (a mistake, as always) and came across an Ageist picture. In it was a graph containing data on the ages of fast-food workers. The results read, “Contrary to common belief, teens represent less than 12% of the low-wage workforce. Over 60% of low-wage workers are 25-64 years, many with families to support”. The illustration is typical of “adult-centered” media in that it assumes teenagers do not have families to support and that all teenagers only work a job for extra pocket-money.
How do young people operate in capitalist society? As appendages to their parents or guardians? As consumers? Both? They operate as people (shocking!), more to the point, if they are workers than they operate as members of the working class, who, regardless for reasons of employment, should be entitled to the same amount of wages as their older peers make.
This ignores the fact that there is a great percentage of whom who works to make a living (another shock!). There are people, such as in the Queer community, who for reasons relating to discrimination are forced to move out of their parents’ homes and into an apartment of their own. Because of this they are desperate for employment. They are looking for a livable wage. Yet the claims made by the chart go in complete opposition to this fact and reduce all to a simplistic, and highly Ageist, conception that all young people are mindless consumers, while all older people are mindful workers (forgetting the older people who hold a job but might live with roommates, subsidized housing or are simply, for whatever reasons, to continue living with family; thus, their Ageist concept is further negated).
Furthermore the picture implied that if teenagers did, in fact, make up the majority of the workforce than they shouldn’t be paid a livable wage (after all, if they are simply going to spend it on commodities than why should they be paid good money?). This is a false dichotomy: one cannot say, out of moral principle, that workers of one age demographic should be paid more simply because of age and assumed life obligation. If you are advocating for a living wage for fast-food workers than ditch the liberal whining and treat the workers are workers, and not as abstract demographics which have “more importance” than other such groups.
It is unfortunate that even some anti-capitalist groups have taken to circulating this picture, but with the lack of a powerful youth international it is not surprising that young peoples’ voices are devalued and slandered. So in this sense comrades must make a thoughtful self-criticism of their Ageist tendencies and be willing to learn how to walk hand-in-hand with their younger comrades.